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Fullerton cops get delay in Kelly Thomas case as new tape emerges

June 26, 2012 |  2:53 pm

Fullerton police officers in Kelly Thomas case

An Orange County judge agreed to delay the arraignment of two Fullerton officers charged in the beating death of Kelly Thomas after a defense attorney sought more time to examine a new audio recording that he claimed would put the deadly incident in a different light.

The judge rescheduled the arraignment for Officer Manuel Anthony Ramos, 38, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 40, to July 13. He agreed to the postponement after defense attorney John Barnett requested more time to incorporate portions of the audio tape in his motion to dismiss the second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter counts against Ramos. Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force in the July 2011 arrest of Thomas at the Fullerton Transportation Center. Thomas died five days later.

Prosecutor Jim Tanizaki objected to Barnett's request for a delay, arguing that the few minutes of tape would not affect the criminal case. During a May preliminary hearing, prosecutors played 33 minutes of video synchronized with audio from recorders that officers carried. Prosecutors later gave defense attorneys several more minutes of audio of Ramos and Thomas talking in the minutes before the beating.

Barnett said he believes the recording will aid his client's case. He said it will cast his client in a a different light and includes his interactions with another homeless man. Thomas, meanwhile, can be heard being rude and disobedient, Barnett said.

Tanizaki said he does not believe the new audio tape segments change anything. At the recent preliminary hearing, Dist Atty. Tony Rackauckas summarized the conversation at a preliminary hearing: "Thomas was a bit of a jerk to the officer, but Officer Ramos was a bit cavalier." 

Rackauckas has said the officer twirled his baton and then "put on a show" when he put on a pair of latex gloves, signaling he was "not going to be nice anymore."

"See my fists ... these fists are going to ... you up," Ramos said, according to the video of the encounter.

Rackaukas described a series of blows that he said Ramos delivered to Thomas before Cicinelli arrived at the scene, first shocking him with his Taser and then clubbing him with the butt of the weapon as if it were "a hammer."

"Then he jumped on him, smashing his face. Those aren't my words, those are his," Rackaukas said. 

Ramos is free in lieu of $1 million bail and Cicinelli is out on $250,000 bail.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Jay Cicinelli, left, and Manuel Ramos booking photos. Credit: Orange County District Attorney